This narrative is starting to become all too common: Andrew Luck’s shoulder and return are in question once again. While it’s still June and there is plenty of time left for Luck to prepare for 2017, the writing could be on the wall. In this piece, we are going to compare and contrast historic medical conditions in a couple of gifted passers who suffered injuries to their throwing shoulders as well.
Luck has spoken with the media recently, telling fans “it’ll be alright.” However, Luck’s very appearance has fans worried as he is noticeably slimmer, stating himself that he, in fact, has lost 15 pounds. Then there is Jim Irsay, the Colts headline-making owner. Irsay sent shockwaves through the fan base and media when he spoke at the team’s first ever town hall event when he spoke about the star quarterback.
Colts fans… Andrew Luck doesn't want you to worry about him.
"It'll be alright." ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/XKqMCwK4gh
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) June 13, 2017
“This [surgery] has been a positive thing, not a negative thing or anything like that,” Irsay said. “He was really struggling going through the process of being ready to play [each week last season]. This was, quite frankly, not that complicated of a surgery. This was a simple labrum repair. There are a lot of other things that could have been involved with this surgery that weren’t.”
Again, while Luck will likely be ready for the 2017 season and go on to have a long productive career, this type of situation must seem familiar to Irsay. When the elder Robert Irsay was still running the Baltimore Colts, the team had a bright young gunslinger named Bert Jones.
Baltimore drafted Jones second overall in 1973 to succeed Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas much like Luck was taken to replace Peyton Manning. Both quarterbacks were also second generation NFL players as well. Jones went on to have a hot start to his career and in 1976, he took the league by storm with 24 touchdowns and a passer rating above 100– one of only three QB’s to break a 100 rating during the 1970’s, the others being Roger Staubach in 1971 and Ken Stabler in 1976. However, much like our present day Colts quarterback, injuries began to mount for Jones.
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) May 21, 2017
After winning the MVP award in 1976, he would never reach the same level of production. In 1978, Jones suffered a separated right shoulder during a preseason game, then separated it again later that season. The injury saw Jones compete in just seven games in two seasons. When he returned to full-time action in 1980, Jones didn’t have the same firepower he once possessed, lasting just three more seasons in the pros before a neck injury forced him to retire.
The good news is this isn’t the 70s and modern medicine is light-years ahead of those days. The surgery performed on Luck appears by all indications to have been successful. At this point, let’s look a little closer to present history, going back to 2006.
A younger Drew Brees had his right shoulder repaired– a procedure that utilized 12 anchors to repair a 360° labrum tear, in addition to a partially torn rotator cuff. He has stated the surgery saved his career and since that time, Brees has only gone on to set numerous NFL passing records, so Luck should come out of this alright.
In an interview with Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, two different medical experts who were not involved with Luck’s procedure chimed in their own thoughts.
“People are probably worried, he had a labrum repair and he’s not throwing five months later, but that is not alarming to me at all,” said Dr. Brian Schulz. “There’s no point for the team to push him with the season still a few months away.”
Dr. Jamey Gordon, of Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Sports Performance, gave a description of the injury that was easy to understand when he said, “The labrum is a ring of cartilage encircling the shoulder. Picture a clock. A healthy labrum shoots straight up – 12 o’clock. A partially-torn labrum, like Luck’s at the end of last season, is peeling back a tad. How far did it peel back? One o’clock? Two o’clock? That’s how you find out how severe the tear was and how long it will take to heal.”
From someone with direct knowledge of Andrew Luck’s rehab: The plan BEFORE surgery was not to throw in minicamp. Hope has been training camp
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 13, 2017
Gordon went on to suggest that Luck could indeed be healed by now and the Colts are simply keeping his progress from the public eye.
Regardless of where Luck’s progression is at this point, if Indianapolis can keep Luck upright once healthy, he should have no problem leading the team to a lot more victories before he decides to hang up his cleats for good.